Cartier has put down roots in “America’s finest city” — the iconic French house has opened a 4,348-square-foot boutique in San Diego’s Fashion Valley mall.
“Set against the backdrop of this year’s many challenges, the successful opening of our San Diego boutique can only be attributed to the dedication and hard work of our teams,” explained Mercedes Abramo, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America, who said the new location had been in the pipeline before COVID-19 took hold of the globe. “Their agility, flexibility and resilience in the face of ever-changing circumstances make this boutique feel all the more special.”
Designed by the architecture firm Bidard & Raissi, the San Diego boutique — which brings the Compagnie Financière Richemont-owned jeweler’s retail footprint to eight locations in the Golden State — is the most recent boutique to incorporate a new, expansive design concept, debuted first in California in San Francisco in 2018.
The boutique’s limestone façade is accented by large windows, allowing light to flood its interior, which takes on a warm color palette. The color story is meant to reflect the casual elegance befitting the Southern California beach town, punctuated with the inclusion of precious and natural materials, such as light oak.
Within the store are dedicated men’s and women’s watch and jewelry salons, a diamond salon, and a garden-inspired VIP salon. Each of the salons incorporates local touches that embody different characteristics of the San Diego lifestyle. The design trio at Wanda Barcelona lent its touch with bespoke artworks fashioned in layered paper in the women’s salon, while Jallu Straw crafted refined straw marquetry as a nod to the sea in the men’s salon. Inside the VIP Salon, inspired by San Diego’s Spanish Art Center, is a mosaic featuring rich shades of blue, green and brown created by Atelier Lilipkó. The precious Atelier Midavaine lacquer panel, located in the diamond salon, is a focal point of the boutique — which pays tribute to the maison’s heritage featuring the iconic Cartier panther set against the emblematic colors and shapes of the California coastline.
Like the rest of the globe, California is coping with a global pandemic, and recently has been dealt another challenge with some of the state’s largest wildfires ever.
Due to COVID-19 — as with all Cartier boutiques — the San Diego store is open with modified operations and additional safety measures in place. “Cartier continues to follow all government and health agency guidelines, as the safety and wellbeing of our visitors, team members and the community at large is our top priority,” Abramo reported.
Measures include: all visitors must wear a face mask or covering in the boutique; gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are provided throughout the boutique; all in-store appointments are conducted on a one-on-one basis, in designated spaces throughout the boutique, to maintain social distancing; in support of a safe try-on experience, each creation is sanitized prior to its presentation to clients and immediately after, and all visitors are asked to maintain social distancing and to follow signs and floor markings to manage queues and the flow of traffic within the boutique.
As parts of the globe are cycling through various states of quarantine, altering traditional brick-and-mortar retail channels, the hard luxury sector has had to evolve with a consumer who is leaning more and more into online commerce, regardless of the price point.
“We always talk about creating memorable moments at Cartier, and historically, our boutique experiences have always served to make each of our client interactions unique,” Abramo said. “It’s been pretty evident that e-commerce sales have really surged over the past six months. Once our boutiques began closing, our clients began moving online at a rate that exceeded our expectations.”
Abramo said e-commerce sales remain strong, and that clients are experiencing the brand’s boutiques in new ways — via curbside pick-ups, virtual appointments or one-on-one in-store appointments, which she said, has helped the French jeweler find that “there are still plenty of opportunities to make real, unique connections.”
“We’re very happy to have all of our North American boutiques back open. We’ve seen clients return in large numbers, even though the experience may look a bit different than it did before,” she said. “This trend underscores the importance of human connection and the consistent role brick-and-mortar retail plays in the luxury space.”
Abramo reported that within just the first week and a half of being open, the San Diego boutique has “had a steady influx of local clients coming into the boutique — all available appointment slots have been full — further confirming the need for this new location.”
Cartier has no plans to open any more stores in the U.S. for the rest of 2020, but looking ahead, the executive said the maison is focused on “integrating all of our client experiences, whether at home or in our boutiques, even more so than pre-pandemic. It will be really interesting to see how this concept of ‘social retailing’ — reaching and engaging with clients in both their online and off-line lives — continues to evolve in the months to come.”
She added, “From the beginning, the concept of ‘home’ was always an important consideration for the space. We wanted it to feel bright and welcoming — a unique blend of California modernity and Cartier tradition. Aside from the additional safety measures and protocols in place, in many ways, the spirit of the boutique — as it was originally conceptualized — remains unchanged.”